Innovative Interventions to Reduce Dementia Caregiver Distress: A Clinical Guide

By David W. Coon; Dolores Gallagher-Thompson et al. | Go to book overview

1
Family Caregivers: Enduring
and Emergent Themes

David W. Coon, Marcia G. Ory, and Richard Schulz

The dramatic aging of the American population has focused attention on chronic illnesses and their societal impact (Administration on Aging, 2000a; Federal Interagency Forum, 2000; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2001). The realities of chronic illness not only impact the older persons themselves, but also drive the need for informal care from families and friends. However, this growing need is emerging just as societal shifts such as smaller family sizes, rising divorce rates, and growing numbers of dual income families are attenuating the number of informal caregivers readily available to assist current and future cohorts of impaired older adults (National Health Council, 2001; Schulz, O'Brien, Bookwala, & Fleissner, 1995). Yet caregiving currently remains very much a “family affair,” with the majority of informal care being shouldered by family and friends. A recent national telephone survey found that nearly one in four U.S. households included at least one caregiver who provided unpaid care to help someone at least 50 years of age take care of himself or herself. Overall, these findings translate into approximately 22 million caregiving households nationwide (National Alliance for Caregiving and the American Association of Retired Persons [NAC/AARP, 1997]). Caregiving tasks and burdens are often numerous and varied and frequently change across the course of an illness. They can range from the simple running of errands and provision of emotional support to assisting with bathing, feeding, or other activities of daily living and the management of disruptive behaviors. Family and friends typically have to juggle their lives to encompass these care responsibilities and their related

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